20 May 2009

Nollywood Effect: Witchcraft goes mainstream in Uganda

Last night as I was going to fetch my son from work I heard on the 10 o'clock news that some witchdoctors had been arrested in Uganda for killing Albinos and exporting their body parts to Tanzania for use as muti.

Though the source was given as the BBC, a search of Google news this morning found nothing of that, but I did find this: The East African�- Nollywood Effect: Witchcraft goes mainstream in Uganda:
One of the more dramatic stories that closed the month of March was the arrest of a witchdoctor in Entebbe.

Witchdoctors have been much in the news in Uganda recently over ritual murders of infants.

They claim to use the bodies of “pure” people, in this case children, to channel wealth to their clients.

They are thus as bad as the fellows in Tanzania who are driving the hunting of albino people by claiming that their body parts can help you grow rich if treated in certain ways.

This Entebbe witchdoctor was not as violent as the above types.

But he was as big as shame to the nation as the Australian lecher who fathered many kids with his confined daughter.

The last bit shows that some Kenyans confuse Austria with Australia as easily as some Brits confuse Tanzania and Tasmania, but that is not the point of my repeating this story.

These events in East Africa seem to be similar to the use of zvikwambo in Zimbabwe. Zvikwambo (singular chikwambo) are magical objects one can buy from a n'anga (traditional healer), which are supposed to make one rich. They are often made of human body parts. The purchaser of a chikwambo is usually urged to keep it secret, even from other members of the family, and it demands sacrifices for its continued efficacy. The demands become more and more onerous, and sometimes include human sacrifice.

An important aspect of Christian healing ministry in Zimbabwe is releasing people from the power and demands of zvikwambo. I recently co-authored a book on African initiatives in healing ministry, which is soon to be published by Unisa Press. One of the co-authors, Lilian Dube, of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, did research on Agnes Majecha, a healer of the Zvikomborero Apostolic Faith Church, who specialises in neutralising zvikwambo. It is mainly African Independent Churches (AICs) that undertake this kind of ministry, and people have visited Majecha at her healing centre in Marondera from as far afield as Botswana and South Africa.

Muti murders also take place in South Africa, usually for similar motives -- the desire to get rich quick. These are sometimes reported by the media, but often the reporting is confined to sensationalised stories about complaints, and possibly arrests, but very little is reported on subsequent trials, if any. One exception was a case in Tshwane a few years ago, when a four-year-old child went missing. The story of her disappearance and the subsequent search made headlines, as did the discovery of her mutilated body. A police sniffer dog detected her remains in the wall of a hairdressing salon -- they had been incorporated to make the business prosper. In that case there was some reporting of the trial, but generally there isn't. There were some sensational arrests in the Eastern Cape last year, but so far there have been no reports of a trial.

Sometimes people in the West look down on African culture, and point to such things as indications that African culture is inferior to Western culture. However the recent bailouts of Western companies with "toxic assets" resemble nothing so much as the sacrifices offered to appease zvikwambo, only on a far bigger scale. But where is the Agnes Majecha in Europe or the USA to deliver them from this mess?

And at the root of it all is one human passion -- greed.

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